Death, Mourning, Social Remaking | Department of Sociology

Death, Mourning, Social Remaking

Death as a social event has been an epistemological constant in anthropology and sociology. One way in which this presence has been handled is in considering aspects of death ritual as sites of thought and practice. The starting point of this engagement has been to show how the event of death marks the social structure as tenuous and how its recovery is dependent on the mournful participation of the living. The closing point leads us to the conclusion that the social and the structural are continuous and unbroken by a particular event of death.

Into the present, we find that the evental fold developed between these two points has been reshaped by the new attention we have received within the subject on violence, bad death, the dead as municipal and media facts on one end and anguished lament on the discursive death of religion, family, planet on the other. We can now see very clearly that the return of the social from an event of death does not match with the return of the mourner to that social.

We sense that the funeral as a social institution has become contingent and improvisatory in the contemporary. We are moved to ask what might it mean for different cultures to potentially consider cremation, or other environment friendly and medically hygienic practices, as industrially viable options. We come to locate the dead as empirics in assemblies of remains across different spheres of the social strata, ranging from the name of the dead to the ash and the ossuary to the last tweet and the last post. We recognize the event of death across diverse spaces and become open to the idea that the deceased will have different lives across these spaces, including that of being undead in some.

Accepting the enclave within the event of death and the return of the social as unbroken must involve locating the social as differentiated and continually remade by the event of death. And, yet we remain committed to the classical contribution because it is in here that the epistemological constant of death is ethicized into a reparative desire of seeking a return of the social.